By Kevin Cornell
As many of our artists have been learning over the past week, just because COVID-19 is keeping us ALL indoors for a few, it doesn’t mean you need to disconnect from your fans entirely. Yes, the industry and its artists and employees are being hit as shows, appearances, and entire tours are cancelled out of necessity. Not to mention how many artists that rely on day/night jobs in the service industry and other sectors are temporarily without income.
As such, live streaming concerts has become an exciting way to not only perform live and connect with fans, but also collect a bit of revenue via ‘tipping’. What was once a more complicated and laborious effort (even just a few years ago) is now relatively seamless if you approach it from the right angle.
Whether you’re looking to hop online and offer fans a little dedicated concert or you’re organizing a showcase with other artists, below are some new and improved tidbits for making your first live streamed concert a success.
Just like virtually anything else in your music career, you’re going to need to promote this in some fashion. Depending on the size of your concert (i.e., how many other artists you’re involving, if any), you have some options.
Create a Facebook event, make a flyer, shoot a quick video – whatever you think will resonate best with your fans works here. Just don’t limit it to one social media channel! Regardless of where you choose to host it (more on that soon), make sure you’re giving fans and followers across the board a chance to attend. Just give clear, concise directions as to what they should expect.
Got an email list? So long as you haven’t been bogging down its subscribers with meaningless updates out of boredom all week, this would be a great time to make the announcement of your show. Include all the bells and whistles of your liking mentioned above and reserve a bit of time for fans to schedule it into their day/night.
Doing this with some other artists? Great! Just make sure they’re distributing the information to their respective fan bases too. Just like anything else in this game, the bigger reach you have, the more folks will show up.
Picking a Platform
We all know there’s a plethora of digital platforms that allow you ‘go live’, and depending on what you’ve found your fans to be particularly fond of (and how big you’re trying to blow this thing out), you should carefully consider which one makes most sense for your on-air gig.
Instagram (IGTV) / Facebook
Instagram and its IGTV feature is definitely a go-to for a lot of independent artists. Here, you can connect directly with your followers, receive some virtual love via comments, and do it all from your phone. Be sure to read more about IGTV before you go live so you’re as prepared as possible.
If you find that more of your fans are likely to engage on Facebook, you’re in luck! The parent company of Instagram was one of the first platforms to really help artists stream in real time, and you can learn more about using Facebook Live here.
If you’ve developed a following of subscribers to your YouTube channel (or perhaps want to make an effort to build that further), the video giant’s live streaming option is great for hosting your show. Keep in mind that you’ll need a webcam for this, unless you have over 1,000 subscribers, in which case mobile is an option. Check out YouTube’s FAQ for an introduction here.
Twitch has exploded over the past couple of weeks with artists going live! While it was mainly known as a hub for gamers, artists have embraced the platform. Twitch offers ‘Bits’ as a means of letting fans tip the live streaming artist, too. Learn more about setting up your Twitch channel here.
Once mainly known to folks in offices and professionals attending webinars, Zoom’s free platform for live streaming has also taken off as a tool for artists this year. Zoom has a YouTube integration, but might be less intuitive to new artists and fans alike, so be sure to catch up on how to make your show a success here.
Another platform used in the business world that creatives have been utilizing during quarantined times is Join.Me. Similar to Zoom, you’ll want to get yourself up to speed on the nuances of running a live video conference, and you can get more details here.
The concept of a virtual tip jar is nothing new in this space – even our now-slightly-dated piece from 2014 about virtual concerts covers that.
While some platforms will have integrated tip jars/donation opportunities, you can just as easily provide viewers and fans with your Venmo or CashApp account name. Post it in the chat, write it down on a piece of paper for the show, and remind folks that you have one.
Remember, people who are willing to hang in and watch virtual shows are likelier than the average fan to contribute. This is also a great time to begin getting comfortable making “the ask” to your fans, which might come in handy down the road.
While there’s little room to make this entire article about how to capture the perfect lighting of the living room of a two-bedroom apartment, we encourage you to consider the impact lighting has on a live streamed set. Play around with your designated performance space – if you want to keep it simple, great, but at least preview how the light will hit you ahead of your set. If you want to get weird with it and add a little something extra, go for it! Again, just make sure your attempts at “creative lighting” doesn’t slip into the “sloppy lighting” category.
Audio, unsurprisingly, is a big one to be mindful of here, too. Some simple testing and pre-show recordings will help you adjust your settings. Maybe it’d help to have a friend go on a private live stream with you before you go live, too, so you can get immediate feedback of how it’s coming across.
Making It a Showcase
While it’s plenty effective to host a quick, stripped-down set to please your fans (applying any and all the advice above), this also a great time to make it a party. Collaborating with other artists in your scene is a surefire way to drum up excitement, keep things diverse, and appeal to a wider audience.
We spoke to Kristyn Potter, founder/editor-in-chief of Left Bank Magazine, who recently hosted “Left Bank Live”, a live streamed concert series. When asked about how the artists Left Bank booked were able to engage with fans and express themselves in a remote setting, she acknowledges there was a learning curve.
“Being thrust into a new environment and having to figure out a new way of telling your story and expressing yourself isn’t easy,” Potter said. “I think that, coupled with the intimacy of playing at home or in a studio space—something fans rarely get to see—lent itself to a vulnerability that became really powerful to watch, experience, and have a part in.”
Having launched six years ago, Left Bank and Kristyn benefit from a network of independent artists and music industry folks, so getting people involved and getting people to promote it/mention it was easier than what your average artist might be up against as far as getting the word out quickly. But again, regardless of your reach, remember that each artist involved has their own base to promote to.
“My advice would be to tap into your existing network or communities that you are already involved in. People want to support you and it’s a lot easier to get that support from those who know you and your work than hitting up Vice or Stereogum to execute this idea,” says Potter. “I would also suggest messaging people on various music Facebook groups—those pages are treasure troves.”
Kristyn acknowledges that the reception and overall press-pickup of her Left Bank Live virtual showcase was due in part to the timing of its launch and announcement: “As with album press or tour press, it’s all about the marketability of something and the timing. If you release an album the same day as Donald Glover or release a track the same day everyone else is, there’s more noise to cut through.”
Is that enough info for you to get started? Remember – a virtual, live streamed show or set doesn’t have to have the production value of Drake at Madison Square Garden. You should put time and thought into the audio settings, the lighting, and your overall promotion and organization, but at a time like this, consider that you’re helping fans cope with being stuck indoors. You’re also providing a very intimate form of entertainment to a group of music listeners that place value in the live experience.
So whether you’re going big and building a bill of peers from your scene, or just doing a relaxing, 15-minute set on a Wednesday night from your living room for a handful of people on YouTube or Instagram, use it as an opportunity to show your fans how much performing for them means to you.